Flowers of Mysteria

The tagline on this game is “An old-fashioned text adventure,” and this is no lie. Your mission: gather all the things in a thinly-drawn fantasy setting and save the kingdom. The vibe is fairy-tale or children’s story, not RPG. The game has a homemade parser, which is almost never a good idea, but honestly, this one is not too terrible. Discarding forty years of IF design, it doesn’t implement L or X, but it does at least list all its verbs upfront (some of them unusual, and with synonyms), and it’s not insulting or overly frustrating. I found it far less painful than another parser game in the comp with a supposedly professional engine that I started on and abandoned. At times, Flowers of Mysteria is pretty cute. You can HUG a sad princess! The game is amiable enough, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and would be fine to play with young children.

I’m afraid that I didn’t much care for this game.

There simply isn’t much game or story going on, here. The player is plonked into the world without any goals or direction - you only know that your goal is to create a magical potion from four flowers to cure the king from the game blurb on the competition website, which is also repeated in the in-game “help” command. There is no introduction for this in the narrative at all. Moreover, there’s no sense of narrative or character woven throughout. The gameplay is pretty strictly wandering around rooms with exceptionally barebones descriptions (the majority simply list the name, the exits, and any present items) followed by “find item X and use it on Y.” Gameplay that boils down to “use key on door” isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs something - character, narrative, description - to elevate it. That something is missing, here.

If I’m honest, the sense I got was that the author was more interested in creating a home-rolled parser than in actually creating a game. I’m only assuming that this is a custom parser (it’s a Windows executable rather than, say, z-code), but it really is the sense I got. As I mentioned, the story is a thin justification for the puzzles, the descriptions are either entirely absent or are an afterthought (there’s a lot of “You see nothing out of the ordinary,” whether the player is trying to examine a toilet in the bathroom or a nonexistent giraffe in the bathroom), and the puzzle design was lacklustre (strictly use X on Y without any real red herrings - if there’s an item, with two exceptions, it has a use, and one use only).

The most egregious example of this, I think, is when you successfully create the magical potion, if you examine it, you get the standard response of “You see nothing out of the ordinary,” as you do with any unimplemented item. This item is the central goal of the game that you’re working towards and is, in fact, a magical potion. By definition it is not ordinary. To fail to include some description, and to instead say it is in no way extraordinary is inexcusable.

The game also has characters that wander the world, which isn’t a problem in itself. Many games do. The problem here is that their wandering adds nothing to enjoyment of the game, and in fact detracts from it. There’s no narrative or character reason for their movement, and having to wander around until you find that character you need to interact with just gets in the way. It’s a hindrance to smooth play that I suspected was present not for any puzzle or story reason, but because the author wanted to see if they could build an interpreter that could have wandering characters, for its own sake.

So, yes, the overwhelming impression is that the game (puzzles and story both) was an afterthought. The real interest of the author was the creation and implementation of their interpreter. While they succeed more here than they did in the creation of the game itself, the interpreter is by no means perfect.

For whatever reason, the author has decided to discard the convention of allowing the player to type “L” as a shorthand for “look” and “X” as a shorthand for “examine,” which is common across all modern interpreters, and has been for years. Moreover, the game suffers badly from “guess the verb” and “guess the noun.” For example, at one point there is a loose stone in a bridge that the player needs. “get stone” will not pick it up, nor will “pry stone,” but “dislodge stone” will. The only way I discovered that was to look at the list of understood verbs in the help command. As another example, “examine fish” is not parsed but “examine mackerel” is. I don’t know if these are failures of the interpreter per se, or if the author simply did not bother to implement these verbs/nouns in a parser that could handle them, but the overall effect on the final product is the same.

Overall, I did not enjoy the game. It’s less a game than a tech test, in my view, and not an entirely successful one at that. Of course, that’s the case if this is in fact an attempt at a homebrewed parser. If it isn’t, then this is simply a lacklustre game.

What exactly do I need to play this game? I get an error in WinXP and in Win7home. It runs in Win7professional however where it looks like a dos frame. But it does not run in DosBox.

I’m running Win7 Home Premium, and it just runs out of the box.

So in fact meaning that a lot of people can’t play this game.

I don’t see any e-mail address of the writer. Does somebody know? Then I can send him the error pictures.

I’ve also posted a review of the game on my blog here.